ARC Rally, Day 13

We’re heading west on the trade wind express!  After a frustrating afternoon of light and shifty breezes clocking from south to north, a steady breeze from the north-northeast filled in just before happy hour.  We set a shy kite, our 2.2 oz symmetrical spinnaker, and have been close reaching on the great circle route to St. Lucia ever since.  The breeze has slowly but steadily improved from 7 knots last evening to the mid-to-high teens today.  Speeds over the ground are now in the 8’s and 9’s with the occasional burst in the low 10’s and we’re clicking off the miles at the fastest pace of this passage.  If the latest forecast is correct, we should have a fast, non-stop ride the rest of the way to St. Lucia.
With a refreshing gin and tonic at happy hour last night we toasted the arrival in earnest of the trade winds and the last third of our long and unusually slow trans-Atlantic passage.
After, Merima served dinner of barbeque tenderloins of chicken, grilled green peppers with garlic and a couscous salad with feta, marinated peppers and tomatoes.  The wine match was a dry Spanish white Rioja.
Sailing conditions were beautiful throughout the evening with a clear starry sky and NO SQUALLS!  Early this morning we were all reminded of home as the Southern Cross constellation rose just above the horizon.  The last sliver of the moon rose just before a fiery orange sunrise.
After two nights of relatively benign sailing, everyone is feeling pretty rested.
This morning we hooked a nice mahi-mahi as we were honking along with the kite.  It ran out all the line on the reel, but when the speed of the boat pulled the fish up on the plane, we were able to reel it in, skipping along the surface, without slowing the boat down.  The fish weighed in at 6 kg/13 pounds.
The weather is getting warmer as we are pretty much running along the 14th parallel.  Temps this morning were in the low 30’s C/high 80’s F.
The noon to noon run was 164 nautical miles and our position at 1200 hours Central Atlantic time was 13° 48′ north by 43°  19′ west.
Cheers, the MooCrew


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ARC Rally, Day 12

The trade winds stopped trading yesterday afternoon and we have been slowly but steadily working our way through (hopefully) the last patch of light and variable winds before we can get on the westbound train to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.  The breeze has mostly been in single digits for the past 24 hours, slowly clocking from the south through to the north, through our course line.  We’ve been able to sail all but 20 minutes of it, but we’re tired of playing cat and mouse with the breeze and hoping something strong and steady will fill in from the northeast pretty soon.  We ran out of beer at happy hour yesterday so the situation is getting dire.  The boy’s beards are getting longer, itchier grayer.

Although we’ve spent the past 24 hours on a tight reach, the sea state has been settled, and it has been very pleasant sailing.
After a stunning crimson red sunset, Merima served up the last mahi-mahi we caught for dinner in a tasty turmeric sauce, and served it with sides of dahl and a radicchio salad.  The accompaniment for dinner was a dry Spanish white wine.
The MooCrew all enjoyed their night watches for a change, thanks to the absence of any squalls, calm conditions and a beautiful, clear starlit night.  Perhaps each of us wants to be on deck to call the arrival of the trades when we can once again set the spinnaker.
Charles and Graham continue to potter about, making minor repairs as little items come up so we’re pretty ship shape thanks to their efforts.
Today Merima declared that it was the day to change bed sheets.  None of the boys could agree upon who was going to change with who, so each was issued a clean set to put on their berths.
ARC Rally Control sent an email yesterday rescheduling some of the events in St. Lucia due to the unusually slow sailing conditions this year.  The big Welcome Party scheduled for Wednesday 8 December has been renamed the Early Arrivals Party.  Yikes! 17 days is an “early arrival.”  We have a shot at making that gig so will be sailing hard to get there in time.
We logged 132 nautical miles in the 24 hours from noon yesterday to noon today, and our position at noon today was 13° 45′ north by 40° 32′ west.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt


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ARC Rally, Day 11

The trade winds remain fickle.  In the last 24 hours, wind speeds have ranged from less than one knot to a peak of 30 knots and have come from almost every direction.  The MooCrew have been working very hard trimming, tweaking and changing sails in order to keep the boat moving toward St. Lucia without using up precious diesel.

We were able to carry the big spinnaker all of yesterday afternoon and most of last evening in absolutely perfect downwind sailing conditions.
We finally hooked another fish yesterday, but whatever we had on the line had sharp teeth as it managed to cut through the steel trace, taking our brand new lure.
Graham continued his on the job training in B & G instrument repair by repairing the forward cockpit cruise repeater that had locked up on one setting.  This is an essential piece of gear that gives us important information such as true wind speed, true wind angle, boat speed, velocity made good, etc.  Graham spent three hours in a delicate surgery and was able to rebuild the keypad so the gauge works perfectly again.
As we were celebrating passing the half-way mark on the passage with a bottle of bubbles around sundown, we spotted a red spinnaker off our starboard quarter.  Hailing the yacht, we found out she was Lionessa, a beautiful new Swan 66 that is sailing in the Invitation Cruising division with us.  We also spotted the lights of two other yachts participating in the rally just after dark.  It is amazing that after ten days of sailing, we have other yachts in sight.  It is even more amazing that we have been able to lead the way for a 25 year younger, larger and supposedly faster yacht kitted out with all the latest and most expensive go-faster gear.  In any event, I guess we’re going the right way.
Merima, ably assisted by Charles, turned out a great dinner of pork schnitzel, fried zucchini and potato salad which was enjoyed with a bottle of Spanish rosé.
The wind clocked to the south last night and at about 2200 hours we changed down to the jib, carrying on a two-sail reach in the mid to high 8 knot range directly toward St. Lucia.
At about 0030 hours this morning we got absolutely pummeled by a squall.  This one was particularly nasty as it was packing winds of 30 knots from the west (the direction we we’re headed) and punishing rain.  The decks, sails and rigging received at least an hour of serious water blasting as we struggled to keep Moonshadow moving and under control.  We were all aware of at least three other yachts in close proximity and the heavy rain was painting the radar screen white.  Attempts to peek out around the dodger to keep a lookout were met with a painful blast of horizontal rain assaulting the eyes.  Charles, Kurt and George were on deck most of the morning monitoring the situation-in other words they did not get much sleep last night.
The squall hovered over us, moving in the same direction, for at least three hours. Conditions moderated to about a 15 knot westerly wind and gentle rain after an hour or so.  By 0600 the wind speed indicator was showing goose eggs and we were a soggy mess.
After motoring west for less than an hour the breeze picked up to the three to four knot range.  I was able to cut the engine, roll out the jib and get Moonshadow moving at a steady 1.5 to 2 knots on a WSW’ly course.  The breeze built as the sun rose and at 0900 all hands were called on deck to set the big spinnaker.
As the groggy crew assembled on deck, the fishing reel went off with a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Kurt reeled in a small mahi-mahi.  After it was put to sleep with some cheap Thai whiskey and the kite was set, George gave Kurt a lesson on how to fillet a fish.
Fresh fish is always welcomed on board, especially when a passage is taking a bit longer than anticipated, and Merima was happy she wouldn’t have to dig into the freezer for dinner.
We’re banging the western the edge of the Mid-Atlantic time zone, so the ship’s clocks were retarded one hour today at noon.  Our position at that time was north 13° 41′ by west 38° 33′ and our 24 hour run was 153 miles.  We now have approximately 1300 miles to run to St. Lucia.  We’re hoping out dive to the south will pay off in the rally standings.  We’re now sitting at 8th in the Invitation Cruising division and 21st in the overall fleet of approximately 240 boats.  That said, we heard that 40 yachts had stopped in the Cape Verde Islands to wait for better sailing conditions.  It’s a shame they’ll miss all the great ARC parties.
Cheers, the MooCrew


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ARC Rally, Day 10

After ten days of clawing our way southward, we’ve finally found the trade winds. We’ve given up on trying to better Moonshadow’s last ARC Rally time of just under 14 days and now are just shooting to beat Christopher Columbus’ best time of 21 days for the trans-Atlantic passage. Most of yesterday and last night was spent motor sailing in light and fickle winds and rolly seas which kept the sails slatting and making it difficult for the MooCrew to get any good sleep.

It was a pretty boring ride so we set about doing some minor repair and maintenance.  Graham managed to repair the aft cockpit B & G (Broken Gauges) knot meter that was showing gobbledygook numbers, by cannibalizing a couple old gauges I had in spare parts inventory.  We now have an operational knot log display in the aft cockpit once again.  I can’t believe this stuff is giving us trouble when it’s only 25 years old!
Snacktician Merima whipped up a lovely dinner of capellini pesto with roasted pine nuts and reggiano parmesan cheese, accompanied by a fresh green salad and a bottle of Italian white wine.
Early this morning the breeze filled in from the south east and we finally put the engine to sleep.  Setting the big kite in ten knots of breeze, we were finally sailing directly towards St. Lucia.
We sailed into a large cloudy patch and it began raining buckets.  We didn’t mind because the breeze held and the entire boat, rig and sails were getting a water blast. After a warm and sticky evening, it was actually quite refreshing.  Rather than get a kit of clothing wet, the boys stripped down to the last garment, either a Speedo or underwear.  Charles was quite a picture on the helm.  The rest of us brushed the flying fish scales off the decks so we could collect the gift of fresh water from heaven in our tanks.  Graham filled the buckets and did some wash.  Kurt lathered up and had a shower.  I gave the cockpit a rinse.
Embedded in the rainy patch was a squall packing winds twice the ambient wind speed.  It wasn’t the typical violent nasty squall with big wind shifts, but sailing into it with the big kite, we found ourselves running at 10-11 knots in 23+ knots of wind.  Rather than having God take it down for us, we snuffed the kite, dropped it safely into the forepeak and ran in front of the wind with just the mainsail till the big winds passed.  We later rolled out the jib and two-sail reached till we got out from under the threatening cloud layer.
After a warming chicken noodle soup lunch, we set the kite again and continued sailing a direct course toward St. Lucia, crossing our half way point of the passage.  A half-way party was in the planning.
Our position at noon local time was north 13° 53′ by west 36° 16′ and our 24 hour run from noon to noon was 187 nautical miles.
Cheers from the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt


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ARC Rally, Day 9

Every time we think about being nine days out from Las Palmas and yet to reach the half way point, we think about the poor buggers a few hundred miles north who are pounding into big seas and trying to make way into 20-30 knot winds.

Way down here, well to the south of the great circle route (rhumb line corrected for earth curvature) we continue to ghost along in single digit breezes, with a huge ground swell to remind us of the system heading across the Atlantic in the other direction to the north.
Winds from the southwest kept us on a course to Brazil nearly all afternoon yesterday.  The only luck we’re having fishing is the odd flying fish that sacrifices itself on our decks.  We hooked a small mahi-mahi yesterday afternoon, but the hook was just in the lip so when Graham tried to pull her aboard, she fell off.  Perhaps she’ll come back when she’s fully grown.
The only good breeze we’ve had in the last 24 hours was in squalls.  There has been plenty of rain to wash the decks, lines and rigging, so we’re nice and clean.  After the squalls the wind drops to almost nothing, so we’ve had the motor on and off a few times to keep moving.  We’ve come through what we hope is the toughest part of the passage and still half our diesel.
We’re well into the trade wind belt and waiting for them to fill in a bit more.  In any event, just about every mile we sail now is taking us a mile closer to St. Lucia.  We expect to reach the half way point tomorrow afternoon, so there will be (yet another) cause for celebration.
Graham is obviously missing work.  He has become so bored he is looking around the boat for things to fix.  So far he’s sorted out the aft cockpit boat speed repeater and the forward cockpit instrument illumination.  I’m sure there’s plenty to keep him busy until the sailing does.
Kurt continues to entertain/gross us out with sick jokes.
Charles is eagerly awaiting more breeze so he can get some quality helm time.  In the mean time he’s catching up on his rest.
Merima warmed us all up with a batch of red beans & rice with chorizo sausage last night.  There should be plenty of wind today as a result.
Our position at noon today was 16° 32′ north by 31° 23′ west and our noon to noon run was 170 nautical miles.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt


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ARC Rally, Day 8

We have been blessed/cursed with light winds on this passage-until yesterday afternoon. As we approached a slow moving front, the winds gradually increased to the 14-16 knot range from the south-southwest. Just the direction we wanted to be heading. We were on a tight reach throughout the evening, trying to hold on to every inch of southing we could make, in hopes of eventually reaching the trade winds.
Merima finally had to pull out one of her pre-cooked meals, an excellent Penang chicken curry she had prepared in Las Palmas and then put in the freezer in the event of a rough start to the passage. The spicy food made us all glow and at one point George confused his napkin with his roti, and wiped the sweat off his brow with the bread. Now that is an authentic curry!
Pounding into the seas, we scared up a few flying fish. Merima had a scare on her watch as one hit the wind screen with a thud, then went down the side deck and fluttered along the toe rail.
The barometer was dropping rapidly, losing a hectopascal every two hours. Winds were gusting in the low 20’s and we all lamented that this was not the downwind/tradewind passage advertised in the brochure.
At 0300 I awoke to a sudden acceleration of wind and heel just as Charles came down to get me. A squall was upon us. We battened down and hand steered. Winds got up to the mid 20’s, rain was heavy and seas confused.
This seemed a lot like a frontal passage so we decided to tack on it and head south. The wind lifted us nicely on the other board for awhile, but it was a sucker lift that soon backed around again. Another more violent squall came through giving us 30 knot winds, more rain and breaking the main autopilot. We decided to carry on and get in some southing to get away from the headwinds up north. The barometer was climbing fast.
Winds moderated to the 9-11 knot range and we continued on a southerly course, hoping to have breeze to get us down to latitude 14 north.
The boat settled down enough for us to enjoy a cooked breakfast and rinse all the salt and human debris out of the cockpit. By mid day we were enjoying a sunny day and nice sailing in fair winds once again.
Our noon position was 16˚ 32’ north by 31˚ 23’ west and we had just over 1700 miles to run to St. Lucia. Our noon to noon run was 151 miles.

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ARC Rally, Day 7

Beautiful sailing conditions continued through yesterday afternoon and last night. Since the winds were rather light, 4-8 knots from the SSW to SW, we tight reached with main, jib and staysail just south of west so we could put a bit more southing in. As the winds picked up a bit during the evening we furled the staysail and headed up, maintaining our west-southwesterly heading.
With the sea state relatively benign, snacktician Merima managed to put together the boys’ favorite, a Chicago style spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza. It was a rather filling meal that required two bottles of Spanish white to wash it down. Leftovers? No way!
The wind gradually picked up throughout the morning and at mid day wee took the first reef in the main as winds reached the 13-14 knot range. I can’t even remember the last time we had to reef. We have been able to maintain a course 5-10 degrees above our great circle route bearing of 280˚ to the north end of the island of St. Lucia, just over 1800 miles west.
We feel fortunate that we put in more southing at the beginning of the passage. On the radio sked today, the boats further north are reporting winds from the WSW to SW to 25 knots and are shipping a lot of water. We’ve still got some hatches open as it is warm with daytime temps in the high 80’s (F)/low 30’s (C). It cools in the evening but is still warm enough for just shorts and a t-shirt.
As one can expect, the boys get a bit punchy from time to time and some light-hearted joking and ribbing has been going on. Kurt has accused Graham (a.k.a. the dirty little man) of sexual harassment (they share the aft port cabin) but has yet to request alternative accommodation.
Kurt has the best two quotes of the passage so far: “Isn’t it amazing how all the food comes aboard the boat through that big companionway and leaves through a 1-1/2” pipe” and “It has taken me years to become this immature.”
Our position at noon today (Cape Verde Islands time zone) was 17˚ 19’ north latitude by 29˚ 28’ west longitude and our noon to noon run was 137 miles.
Cheers from the MooCrew, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt

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ARC Rally, Day 6

Nothing can break a spell of boredom at sea like the arrival of new breeze. After motor sailing all morning, the wind finally picked up to the 5-6 knot range-just enough for us to sail. Everyone perked up as we killed the engine and set the spinnaker, even though our speed dropped nearly in half to around 5 knots. We’d rather listen to the water gently lapping on the hull for two or three days instead of listening to the diesel clatter for one.
We continue to be plagued with light winds in the single digit range, with the occasional gust nudging into the low teens. Having a crew of small boat sailors on board is a blessing in this situation, as they will work tirelessly, tweaking this or that, or hand steering in order to squeeze an extra tenth of a knot or two out of the fickle breeze.
If the breeze has been light, so has the sea state, which helps us to sail closer to wind speed. Wind waves are almost nil, but we’ve had a large ground swell of 3 to 4 meters lumbering in from the northwest, courtesy of a large weather system that is passing by us on its way to the Azores. While it is quite awesome to watch, the motion of these large and well-spaced waves is almost undetectable to us and at night when we can’t see it, it is as if it has disappeared.
The crew enjoyed a tasty dinner of Merima’s one-pot beef stroganoff. The boys will be bringing that recipe home with them.
Kurt got a startle on his watch between midnight and 0200 when a flying fish landed on the deck just forward of the open dodger wind screen. Graham claims he screamed like a girl and cowered back on to the bridge deck. Kurt will be teased about that one for awhile.
The breeze held nicely through the night but began to get light and shifty during the early morning hours making it a challenge to keep the spinnaker full. Eventually it veered about 45 degrees from east to southeast. At first light all hands were called on deck to take off the spinnaker and go on to a reach with main, jib and staysail. We’ve been sailing close to the wind all day in an attempt to put more southing in ahead of another trough coming by the middle of next week with headwinds forecast down to latitude 14 north.
Early in the morning we noticed a sea turn hovering around the boat, making a few bugled attempts to land on the deck. We’re guessing it was a bit tired or disoriented and looking to rest or hitch a ride for awhile. The last I saw of it, it had landed and perched on the VHF aerial on the stern antenna farm.
Otherwise, it has been a relaxing day and the crew has had time to do some reading and to catch up on their rest.
Moonshadow’s position at noon local time was 18˚ 20’ north by 24˚ 57’ west. The day’s run from noon to noon was 146 miles. As of 1300 hours this afternoon we have logged 1000 nautical miles since departing Las Palmas. We’re now counting down the distance to St. Lucia, which is less than 2000 miles nearly due west from us.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt

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ARC Rally, Day 5

We gave thanks yesterday for almost an entire day of breeze, albeit rather light and shifty. The engine logged only one hour to move us out of a wind hole. In the afternoon we spent a few hours close reaching with jib and staysail in waters so calm that we were sailing faster than the wind speed. Later in the day the wind veered enough for us to close reach with the MPS.
As the day was otherwise uneventful and the ride smooth, the boys took on the task of repairing the tear in the genoa. The tear was at least five meters long and in the middle of a pane. After tidying up the edges they applied sticky back to both sides and then went about hand stitching the patch to add strength. After it was done, I was warned never to use the sail again.
Thanksgiving was celebrated with a roast turkey dinner with potatoes, carrots and a mixed salad washed down with a white Spanish wine. The turkey was the boneless roast type so there was no stuffing. We have to make some consolations for being at sea.
The breeze carried on through the night and we were able to keep the kite up till mid morning when the breeze died once again. We motor sailed for a few hours till the fickle breeze filled in again.
Other boats in the fleet are reporting catching mahi-mahi, but we’ve had no more luck since our first catch. Dolphins and pilot whales are prolific, with regular spottings.
None of the boys on board has had a shave since Las Palmas, so it looks as if a beard growing contest is under way.
Cumulus clouds typical of the trade wind belt are becoming the norm. Perhaps that is a good omen, but we’re still not sure when to turn right and head for St. Lucia.
Moonshadow’s position at noon was 18˚ 20’ north by 24˚ 57’ west and our noon to noon run was 157 nautical miles.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt.

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ARC Rally, Day 4

After more than 16 hours of motor sailing in ghosterlies from .5 to 3 knots, the breeze finally filled in from the west just before sunset last evening. We unfurled the jib and were sailing at about 80% of wind speed in breezes from 4 to 8 knots. Happy hour was all the more happy with the engine silent and Moonshadow sailing on her course to the waypoint in calm seas. A bottle of bubbles was popped to celebrate the breeze and George’s birthday.
Sailing throughout the evening was extraordinarily comfortable. The only indications that we were not swinging on the hook in a dead calm anchorage was that there was a 5 degree heel angle and the slight sound of water passing along the hull.
For dinner Charles barbecued fillets from the mahi-mahi we had caught that morning. Merima rounded out the meal with sides of a stir fry of zucchini and peppers and rice infused with coconut milk.
After dinner Merima produced the huge birthday cake she had made from scratch (thank God for the Edmonds Cook Book), replete with an icing drawing of Moonshadow with her Southern Cross kite up. The cake was yummy and washed down with an assortment of aperitifs.
The festive mood continued for a few more hours with some comedy and music. The great thing about partying in the middle of the ocean is that you can blast Kevin Bloody Wilson and AC/DC on the stereo without offending anyone.
The breeze backed around throughout the evening so we continued to steer up to keep the pace on. At 0800 the skipper fired up the genset, a not-so-subtle way of awakening the crew so we could put up the spinnaker and make a bit more southing.
With the kite set and trimmed and Moonshadow moving along nicely, we were about to have a coffee break when a pod of dolphins came up and played in our bow wake for about half an hour.
Shortly after the dolphins departed, a pod of pilot whales lumbered by, crossing our path both ahead and astern and largely ignoring our presence.
The weather continues to be almost too nice. Daytime temperatures are now around 26˚ C/80˚F and skies have been mostly clear. A 2 meter/6 foot swell is coming from the west but at 13 seconds frequency, is almost unnoticeable on board.
While Thanksgiving has little significance to most of the crew, we’re all looking forward to a turkey dinner tonight. Merima found one without the bones, so it fit nicely in the freezer.
Going has been relatively slow due to light breezes, so our noon to noon run was a bit off the pace at 141 miles. Our noon position was 19 deg. 52 min. north by 22 deg. 45 min. west.
The Cape Verde islands are at least another day’s sail to the southwest and with some adverse winds on the same line of latitude, we’ve got to figure out how much further south we must sail before find the trade winds so we can hit the right blinker and head due west to St. Lucia.

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